Mountain Leader: What is a QMD? (Quality Mountain Day)

Logging Quality Mountain Days (QMD’s) after your ML training is one of the core requirements of your consolidation.

It is important that this list of QMD’s is diverse, provides plenty of challenging moments for you and shows your dedication to becoming a well-rounded ML.

Logging quality mountain days

What constitutes a Quality Mountain Day?

A QMD should entail the following:

– The candidate is involved in the planning and instigation
– The walk would last at least 5 hours and take place in an unfamiliar area
– The majority of time should be spent above 500m, distance should be over 16km with over 600m of height gain during the day and cover a variety of terrain
– The use of a variety of hillwalking techniques
– Adverse weather conditions may be encountered

– Experience must be in terrain and weather comparable to that found in the Irish and UK hills

Criteria for a Quality Mountain Day


The walk should be both physically and mentally challenging for you. A tired brain and legs are always a good sign that you pushed it on a day out.

If you arent tired by the walks finish, then perhaps you should have tagged on that extra peak along the way.


Exploring new terrain and getting out of our comfort zones and the hills that we walk regularly is a great way to consolidate. We won’t be relying solely on memory to navigate and it will stimulate the all-important decision making parts of the brain.

Remember, we aren’t aiming to be a “Kerry ML” or a “Mournes ML”, we are aiming to be an ML, able to work anywhere in the UK and Ireland.


Both the weather conditions and the underfoot conditions should provide a challenge for us. We need to be practised in all types of both so that we can be assessed and work on all types of both.

Murphy’s Law will dictate your assessment will happen on a weekend of atrocious weather, I know mine was. You have to build up that toughness and resilience along the way, so don’t only be a fair-weather trainee.


When going to walk in a new area, figuring out where you are going to start/finish your walk, where you will park and if there are any access issues is a skill in itself.

These logistical skills will be invaluable for when you are working as an ML and have the expectations and requirements of real clients.

Quality Mountain Day Examples

The context of any QMD is important. Weather conditions, time of year/daylight and underfoot conditions play a huge part in the context of any of these examples.

Maybe that’s where the description in your DLOG can provide additional info to just distance, height and time travelled. It’s worth noting this before giving examples.

Wicklow QMD

A: Starting at Glendalough, you climb Derrybawn, Mullacor and Lugduff and continue along to Turlough hill. At this point you have 4 likely options:

B: descend the spur to the Miners Path, and take the trail back to the car park. This would be the weakest option and although you would have hit the time and distance for a QMD, I personally feel it wouldn’t count as the latter part of the day doesn’t provide any navigational challenge.

C: Descend via Camaderry, providing additional time spent on the hills and possible navigational challenges if the visibility is poor. A solid enough QMD.

D: Take the St Kevins way back to the car park. While this is more rugged and broken than the miner’s trail, it provides little challenge navigationally and I wouldn’t consider it a good QMD.

E: By dropping down to the Wicklow Gap and ascending Tonglegee and The Brockaghs, you have chosen a committed day out on the hills, will utilise lots of skills and will have logged an excellent QMD.


Quality Mountain Day QMD Glendalough

Kerry QMD

Most leisure walkers who climb Tomies and Purple Mountain either stop on Purple or at the Glaslough and retrace their steps to the car or drop down to the Head Of The Gap and walk home via the trail road.

While it may look like a small area on a map, both of the above would be full days out the distance and time-wise, encompassing steep terrain, major peaks and navigational challenges less obvious than it first seems.

However for the purposes of logging a QMD, retracing your steps (in this particular instance) would be a little contrived, unimaginative and personally I think a softer QMD.

Walking via the Gap Of Dunloe trail road (B) is one of the most scenic and beautiful walks in the country, but it’s not ML terrain, even after a tough climb of Purple. Not a QMD.

However, if you headed up Drishana (C) from the Head of the Gap, then down the Ballagh Pass to Strickeen, it would be a solid QMD, covering lesser travelled areas of the Gap.

Quality Mountain Day QMD Kerry


Perhaps a lesser-visited part of the Connemara Mountains, climbing the Devil’s Mother and around Maumtrasna would make for an excellent QMD.

Steep ground, awkward underfoot conditions, potential difficult navigation across the plateau in bad weather and not a trail in sight. A great day out.


Quality Mountain Day QMD Connemara

The Mournes

Perhaps not the usual way to climb Donard, but by utilising the Mournes Shuttle Service or carpooling, a really great day out could be had by starting at Carrick Little.

From memory, it felt like a big day on the legs and a way in which you can encompass one of the provincial highpoints while still attaining the distance required for a QMD.

Quality Mountain Day QMD The Mournes


There will be plenty of times when you don’t quite hit all of the above criteria but still have a quality day in the hills and are a little unsure whether to include them as QMD’s or not.

I’m firmly of the opinion that if some of your walks hit most of the above criteria but possibly come up short in others, I still think it can be logged as a successful QMD.

Justification of why will depend on your description of the weather, terrain and events of the day.

In addition to the above info, I would add the following advice:

  • try to log walks on all 4 provinces of Ireland. If you aren’t familiar with the rest of the country then doing the 4 peaks is a good place to start. Just not by the obvious trail. Do the provincial high point one day and a lesser travelled nearby peak the next.
  • try to get to all the mountainous areas of Ireland at least once.
  • try tick off major peaks on your walks.
  • try to get to either Scotland, Wales or England at least once to hike, before your assessment.
  • get creative with your route planning and look at link up routes.
  • try log some classic “crossings” of the Irish hills. These take commitment, planning, navigation and logistical skills. There are many to choose from, for example :      
  • – The Iveragh Crossing (3-4 days)        
  • – The Sliabh Mish (2 days)        
  • – The Mournes Wall (1 long day or 2 days with camping) 
  •        – The Beara Penninsula (2-3 days)
  • – The Twelve Bens (1 long day or 2 days with camping


Should I log non-QMD’s?

In short, yes. Log Everything! Include everything you do on your DLOG. Even times when you gave up after two hours of persistent bad weather and retreated to your car with your tail between your legs. It might not be a Quality Mountain Day but it shows the assessor a few things, like:

  • you were willing to go out on the bad weather days, not just the good.
  • you know the frustration of what it’s like to fail, pick yourself up and come back for more.
  • That you are committed to the process of becoming an ML and that you didn’t just do the bare minimum required.

Can I just log the bare minimum before the assessment?

Technically yes. The requirements for Quality Mountain Days are set in stone. Unofficially and in my opinion, it’s a poor reflection on you as a candidate not to have above and beyond the requirements.

An assessor wants to see in you a passion for the mountains, the bare minimum isn’t a good impression.

When you start working as an ML, will you do the bare minimum for your clients or go above and beyond? If your answer to that is the former then perhaps the ML isn’t for you.

If you are interested in becoming a Mountain Leader please click here for further details.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this post or other skills or awards.

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